Internet Access, Hate Speech and the First Amendment

24 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2020

See all articles by Jerome A. Barron

Jerome A. Barron

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: November 9, 2019


This article deals with the problem of hate speech on the Internet. The very mode of the Internet is access and the Internet's ready access for ideas is in many ways its most attractive feature. Indeed the Internet is a harbor for all kinds of speech, including hate speech. But as recent events in Charleston, Pittsburgh and El Paso demonstrate, hate speech, such as white supremacist websites, has lethal consequences.

The interactivity of a social media platform, the camaraderie that it engenders, the rage that it fosters, provides a means of radicalization unknown to the more traditional media. A federal statute, 47 U.S.C. Sec. 230(c)(1) plays a significant role here. The theme of this provision is to free online service providers from whatever harmful effects that flow from the content they transmit. Furthermore, under First Amendment law, hate speech is generally speaking, protected speech. The Supreme Court has dealt with hate speech in non-internet contexts. This case law is analyzed in determining what guidelines it provides for the new phenomenon of hate speech on the Internet. In addition, the article suggests a possible amendment to Sec. 230 (c)(1).

Keywords: Sec. 230, Internet, Access, Hate Speech, First Amendment, Law

Suggested Citation

Barron, Jerome A., Internet Access, Hate Speech and the First Amendment (November 9, 2019). First Amendment Law Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2019, Available at SSRN: or

Jerome A. Barron (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-6954 (Phone)


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